Ukrainian Catholic leader says: ‘In this tragic time, all our hope is in God’

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. | Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said on Friday that “all our hope is in God” amid a full-scale Russian invasion.

In a statement on Feb. 25, the day after Russian forces surged into Ukraine, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk appealed for unity among his compatriots.

“In this tragic time, all our hope is in God. At this tragic time, the fate of Ukraine depends on our ability to self-organize and act responsibly, and take responsibility for the future of our state,” he said.

The 51-year-old major archbishop has led the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), the largest of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches, since 2011.

There are more than four million Ukrainian Greek Catholics worldwide, most of whom are based in Ukraine, a predominantly Orthodox Christian country with a population of 44 million people.

After Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, Shevchuk took cover in an air-raid shelter under the Cathedral of the Resurrection in Kyiv, reported the website Il Sismografo.

He had been due to travel to the Italian city of Florence to take part in a meeting of bishops from countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. But he canceled the trip to remain with his flock.

“At this moment, when we survived the first day of the war, we are praying for Ukraine. We pray for peace in Ukraine, we pray and bless the defenders of our Motherland,” he said in a message issued by the UGCC’s Information Department.

“I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all those who are self-organizing and supporting our Ukrainian state today, and to the efforts of all those who are defending our freedom and independence today.”

Pope Francis visited the Russian Embassy to the Holy See on Friday morning to express his concern at the war.

He has called for a worldwide day of prayer and fasting for peace on Ash Wednesday, March 2.

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